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The Secrets to Staying Optimistic While Unemployed


After months of unsuccessful job searching, it can be tough to keep your spirits up. But giving in to the temptation to be dour, bitter, and pessimistic is not going to help your chances of impressing an employer. Besides, you don’t want to go through your days living life like there’s a perpetual rain cloud directly over your head. We’re not going to patronize you by saying these tips can guarantee never-ending happiness, but if you’ll give them a try, they might just help you see the bright side of things.

  1. Accomplish five things every day:

    Staying productive during unemployment is crucial to being optimistic. Instead of spending the entire day on your job search, try setting five goals for yourself, only one of which involves your job hunt. The other goals should be to do one thing for others, for your family, for your home, and for your own well-being, respectively.

  2. Change your mind … literally:

    Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says that although you can’t ignore bad news (like being told you didn’t get the job), you can rewire your brain to be more sensitive to good information. Focusing on a positive detail in you or something in your day for at least 10 seconds, several times a day, can actually change your brain’s physiology and help you be more positive.

  3. Remember that everything changes:

    Even if it seems like nothing new is happening from one day to the next, recognize how unlikely it is that you’ll be unemployed forever. There’s no telling what the next day could hold, from an email out of the blue from an old business contact to a brilliant business idea that hits you in the shower.

  4. Don’t beat yourself up:

    It’s impossible to be “up” when you’re constantly tearing yourself down. Even qualified, intelligent job applicants like you get turned down for job openings sometimes. Even if you’re hard on yourself because you were fired from your last job, think about all the rich and successful people who were canned (in some cases multiple times) before they came out smiling on the other side.

  5. Know you’re not alone:

    It might be easier to be hard on yourself for being unemployed when you were the only person you knew without a job and the economy was booming. But as you’ve probably noticed, a lot of people don’t have a job — like, a lot of people. There are all kinds of support systems in place out there right now because unemployment is so commonplace, so you don’t need to suffer alone.

  6. Take control:

    You’re more likely to be optimistic when you have some power in your life. No, you can’t force a company to hire you. But think of all that you can control, like your job qualifications, for instance. You can control how much of your free time you use to add to your job qualifications by learning new skills. And you always have control over your own health in how well you eat and how often you exercise.

  7. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else:

    A surefire way to start getting down on yourself is to look at where other people are in your age group and size yourself up against them. The problem is we always focus on the people we think are doing better than us and ignore the ones not as well off as we are, so the game is rigged from the start to make us feel bad. No one else has gone through all your particular circumstances, so it’s apples and oranges.

  8. Watch the company you keep:

    Stop and think about the people you regularly hang out with: are they generally positive and optimistic people, or not so much? Surrounding yourself with people who have an upbeat attitude is a great way to remain positive yourself. It’s even better if these people are unemployed also, as you’re more likely to consider them an authentic influence if they’re not telling you how great life is over the phone from their giant corner office.

  9. Look at the odds as being in your favor:

    If you’re competing for jobs where you’re one of six applicants, or 10, or 20, don’t focus on the odds of you getting the job as one in 20. Instead, make this your mantra: “It only takes one.” Just one phone call, or email, or chance conversation at the coffee shop, or introduction, or job posting can be all it takes to leave unemployment behind.

  10. Employ the “one-day” principle:

    It’s a cliche, but it’s true: none of us knows if today might be our last. Would you really want your last day on earth to be spent worrying about when you’re going to find a job or fighting with your significant other because you’re grouchy from being unemployed? Try to make today the best possible day, because really today is all you have.

  11. The economy is not as bad as it’s made out to be:

    There’s more punch to a headline that proclaims the economy is terrible than one that admits things are rough but that there are still bright spots. Investopedia points out that such articles only cite stats that support their gloomy premise, ignoring the data that is cause for hope. The best way to play it safe is to just ignore the news altogether. Again, you don’t need the economy to recover 10 million jobs; you just need one.

  12. Cut out the negative:

    You need to remove negative words and phrases from your vocabulary; no more “can’t,” “won’t,” “impossible,” etc. This includes any and all words you use to gripe or complain. You’ll find it hard to be pessimistic without the use of these downer words.

  13. Take it from them:

    Taking a minute to read an inspirational quote about being optimistic is a good method for starting out your day on the right foot. There’s plenty to be found for free online. Here’s one of our favorites to get you started, from Norman Cousins: “Optimism doesn’t wait on facts. It deals with prospects. Pessimism is a waste of time.”

  14. Have a financial plan:

    Optimism comes much easier when you know it’s grounded in reality. Making a financial plan to see you through this period of no income allows you to realistically approach your job search armed with the knowledge that you’re not in danger of being homeless tomorrow, so you can relax and think positive.

  15. Remember you’re not defined by your job search:

    You are not your job, as much as we tend to try and define ourselves that way. You are also not the car you drive, the clothes you wear, or the degree you have (yes, we love Fight Club). Why then should you be defined by your search for a job? Identify yourself by your faith or your place in your family, friends’ circle, or community, and walking on the sunny side of the street will be second nature.

August 7th, 2012 written by Staff Writers

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